By Tanja Meding | November 29, 2008
Each autumn, for the past 29 years, the Museum of Modern Art – together with the Goethe Institute New York, the German Consulate General, and German Films – presents an annual slate of new noteworthy films from emerging and established German filmmakers. This year’s opening film at KINO! 2008 (5-13 November 2008) was Doris Dörrie’s Kirschblüten – Hanami (Cherry Blossoms). Dörrie and her leading actress Hannelore Elsner were present to introduce this heart-warming film to a packed auditorium. Berlin-based director Andreas Dresen was also in New York to present Wolke 9 (Cloud 9), a film about love, lust, and longing in later life. As he explained to the audience after the screening, the story of the film was set before he started working with the actors, but the dialogue was generated during rehearsals and improvisations.
All three actors deliver strong performances – especially Ursula Werner, who plays a 60-plus seamstress, happily married, who suddenly falls in love with an older man. Torn between the two men, she eventually decides to leave her husband for her new lover. The film sensitively explores the desire and despair of these three older protagonists, whose dilemma differs from that experienced by younger people only in so far as everyone is aware of the little time left with each other. The strength of the close collaboration between the director and his actors gives Cloud 9 an authenticity that is a strong trademark of Dresen’s socio-realist work.
Die Welle (The Wave) is filmmaker Dennis Gansel’s follow-up to his successful Napola (Before the Fall) (2004). Together with actress Jennifer Ulrich, Gansel presented his film to the NY audience. Based and inspired by a 1960s US experiment, as well as Morton Rhue’s novel with the same title, Gansel transfers the story to today’s Germany and explores the question whether an authoritative system can ever happen again in Germany. Jürgen Vogel plays a high school teacher who sets out to teach his students about the origins of fascism, only to discover that it doesn’t even take a week before the situation runs completely out of control. An impressive film with a jarring message, The Wave was a box office hit in Germany this past year.
Also in the program was Auf der Strecke (On the Line) by Swiss-born filmmaker Reto Caffi, a student at Cologne’s Academy of Media Arts. Caffi’s graduation film tells the story of department store detective Rolf (Roeland Wiesnekker), who has fallen in love with the clerk Sarah (Catherine Janke). When he observes her potential lover being harassed on the train, he does not intervene but leaves the car. Later, when he hears about the death of this passenger, he now has to come to terms with his conscience as well as Sarah’s need for companionship and consolation. Well casted, acted and paced, On the Line challenges the audience with its ethical and emotional content.
In stunning pictures and with an exquisite sound track, Thomas Gruber’s documentary Trip to Asia offers an insight into the colorful and distinct personalities of the different musicians who make up the world-famous Berlin Philharmonic. The film follows novices, mid-career, and senior members of this uniquely self-governed, high-class orchestra during a concert tour to Asia. In addition, the film also features Sir Simon Rattle, who has been conducting the orchestra since 2002. The film shows him contemplating his role within the orchestra and also at work, as he conducts with respect and humor. During one rehearsal in Asia, he sets the day up by addressing the orchestra: “Everybody unhappy? Perfect! Ok. Let’s play.” Trip to Asia makes us understand just how much each and every musician is dedicated to his and her art – and how much the music and the unity of the orchestra are their main concerns and focus – much more than their individual contribution to the ensemble. A feast for eyes and ears.
In addition to the above mentioned films, the MoMA program included a screening of films by the Next Generation, a program of shorts by graduates from the different German film schools. Furthermore, veteran filmmaker Helma Sanders Brahms presented her biographical feature Clara, about Clara Schumann, pianist and wife of composer Robert Schumann. Also, Michael Althen and Hans Helmut Prinzler’s documentary Auge im Auge – eine deutsche Filmgeschichte (Eye to Eye – All About German Film) offered an historical overview of German cinema. And Jan Speckenbach’s short feature Gestern in Eden (The Other Day in Eden), which premiered last year at the Cinefondation in Cannes, chronicled a man’s quaint visit to a nudist trailer-park to settle the estate of his deceased father.
As always, congratulations to KINO! 2008 – a most interesting and satisfying collection of recent German shorts, documentaries, and features. Next year’s edition, KINO! 2009, will mark the 30th anniversary of this exciting showcase. For more info, click www.german-films.de.
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